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Four boats with 227 migrants rescued in Spain's Canary Islands in 24 hours

Migrants wait to disembark from a Spanish coast guard vessel, in the port of Arguineguin, on the island of Gran Canaria, Spain June 22, 2023. [REUTERS/Borja Suarez]

ARGUINEGUIN, Spain, June 22 (Reuters) - A total of 227 migrants were rescued on Thursday near Spain's Canary Islands, emergency services said, one day after migrant charities said they feared more than 30 migrants had died after their inflatable dinghy sank on the same route.

The Canary Islands off the coast of West Africa have become the main destination for migrants trying to reach Spain, with a much smaller number also seeking to cross the Mediterranean Sea to the Spanish mainland. Summer is the busiest period for all attempted crossings.

Spanish officials said on Wednesday that the bodies of a child and a man had been recovered and a Moroccan patrol boat had previously rescued 24 people on a dinghy that was sinking.

Migration-focused organisations said 59 people had been on the vessel and at least 30 were missing, and criticised Spain and Morocco for not intervening earlier.

Canary Islands officials said on Thursday that during the night emergency services had assisted 114 migrants in two boats.

A total of 53 people were taken to Lanzarote, while 61 migrants, including a baby and his mother who were taken to hospital, went to Gran Canaria.

TV footage showed some of the migrants covered in red blankets arriving at Arguineguin port in Gran Canaria and rescuers helping a toddler and other arrivals to disembark.

On Thursday morning a third boat was spotted by the coastguards and taken to Lanzarote with 54 people on board. They were in good health, the emergency services added.

Later in the day, a rescue boat with 59 migrants on board arrived to Arguineguin. TV footage showed three children among the passengers.

The Atlantic migration route, one of the deadliest in the world, is typically used by migrants from sub-Saharan Africa. At least 559 people - including 22 children - died in 2022 in attempts to reach the Canary Islands, according to data from the U.N.'s International Organisation for Migration.


There has been a rise in arrivals in the Canary Islands this month.

"Numbers were falling so far this year, but there was an increase this month that surprised everybody. Only in June, close to 2,000 people have arrived," said Canary Islands migration lawyer Loueila Mint El Mamy.

A source working in a migrant camp on one of the Canary Islands told Reuters they had received around 1,000 new arrivals in the past few days, compared with 100 in the same period last year.

Better weather conditions during the early summer could have brought forward the migration season that has previously taken place later in the year, a Spanish government source said.

Spanish government data showed 5,914 people arrived in the Canary Islands between January and mid-June this year, a 31.5% drop compared with the same period last year. But around 41% arrived in just one month between May 15 and June 15.

Meanwhile, in Italian waters in the Mediterranean, the Spanish rescue ship Aita Mari, belonging to the NGO Salvamento Maritimo Humanitario (SMH), said it took part in the rescue of 294 people from a migrant ship off the Italian island of Lampedusa on Thursday.

SMH said a joint operation took place with the Nadir rescue vessel belonging to the NGO ResQship and the Italian coastguard to recover everyone onboard.

Reporting by Emma Pinedo, Corina Rodriguez and Inti Landauro Writing by Emma Pinedo; Editing by Aislinn Laing, Frances Kerry and Alex Richardson


(c) 2023, Reuters

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